those favourite scenes !
is a lot of light in Ratna Varma's oil paintings. He has what one
could call a 'loving eye' for the things he paints. The upcountry
hillscapes, the village scenes, temples, working people, wild animals.
They look beautiful, but not embellished. He paints them the way
they are, with photographic accuracy.
He has a wonderful
sense for brightness and shades, for contours and depths. The scenes
are not new, actually quite the opposite. One looks at them with
a sort of longing, as if saying "oh yes, I have been there,
I have seen that before, and I am glad to see it again, in painting.
Must go there again soon."
Born in India
to a family of artists and musicians, he started his career on a
more commercial basis. Working as an editorial artist at Lake House
he then chose to pursue his studies at St. Martin's School of Distributive
Studies in London. Thereafter he joined advertising agencies, initially
in London and later, in Sri Lanka.
It was his wife
and daughters who pushed him to paint again when he retired. Although
he had exhibited at the Royal Institute Gallery in London and at
the American Centre and the Art Gallery in Colombo back in the fifties,
he had his come-back only after almost 30 years, at the Lionel Wendt,
will exhibit his work at the Havelock Place Bungalow from May 11
sounds in perfect step
I went for Ruwani Seimon Seneviratne's concert presented by her
pupils 'The Voices in Harmony" with an open mind. The title
"Gotta Sing, Wanna Dance" was intriguing. More often than
not 40-odd enthusiastic young people singing can deteriorate into
shouting. Let me hasten to add that this did not occur at any stage.
To my mind,
the criteria for a good musical are that the singing must be disciplined,
there must be clarity of expression and the enjoyment and enthusiasm
of the participants must be conveyed to the audience, who then react
positively. This was demonstrated in ample measure - we the audience
thoroughly enjoyed the show.
An important feature was that the production started on time, unlike
many other performances.
comprised medleys, solos and duets from popular musicals. There
were no pauses between the items, despite several changes of costumes
and stage sets. Whilst the changes were effected, the soloists performed
against the backdrop of the curtain. The singers had the spotlight
on them in one corner of the stage, while a couple danced in the
opposite corner. I personally found this a trifle distracting and
would have preferred seeing the soloists on centre stage.
performed well, but as there were about 30 of them, the quality
of singing was somewhat uneven. A few of the soloists were excellent.
The first half
of the programme started off with a medley from Phantom of the Opera
and came to a close with an enthusiastic rendering from Grease.
This tended to reverberate and could have done without the overhead
were the medleys from "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour
Dreamcoat" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" performed
by the senior choir. Ruwani had also included a couple of not so
familiar, but charming musicals The Little Mermaid and Sister Act
sung by the junior choir who appeared to be really enjoying themselves
A single dramatic
stage set relevant for each musical - for instance, Jesus Christ
bearing the cross for J.C. Superstar and a magnificent stained glass
window for Sister Act, formed an effective backdrop. The costumes
were colourful and accurately depicted the period represented in
the musical. The choreography was excellent and the accompaniment
(piano, organ and drums) complimented the singing.
Ruwani has to
be congratulated on the quality of the male tenors and baritone,
who held their own against the sopranos and altos.
Often the male
voices are over-powered by the female voices. The dance routines
in the medleys too blended well with the singing. The singers were
refreshingly natural - with none of the pseudo glitz of an American
No doubt, Ruwani
and her students would have worked with much dedication and hard
work to reach this high degree of professionalism. Ruwani personally
handled every aspect of the production including the stage sets,
the costumes and choreography (in conjunction with Azlan Bathusha)
and also provided the piano accompaniment for some of the items.
She was ably assisted by Kamalini Samarakoon on piano, Neomal De
Alwis on organ and Kevin Baduge on the drums.
- Premini Amerasinghe